Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPDATE: Fourth Installment of the Garden Progress


The garden is reaching new heights...
Seriously...we've never had corn get so tall before!

The cooler weather is approaching - much to my dismay.
Don't get me wrong, the summer had its moments.
Overall it was rainy and lacked a lot of sunny days to dry things out.

The result was twofold:

1 - we hardly had to water the garden at all! YAY!
2 - we had mushrooms growing in our garden...not the edible kind...sigh.

There were some good things about all the rain...the cucumbers seemed to LOVE it!
This year had to be the first time in a long time that we have had luck growing cukes.

Our cuke machine seemed to work out great.
Both slicing cukes and pickling cukes flourished in our cuke machine.

Can you believe the red headed corn we have???
It's almost hot pink!

Ewww....anybody know what the heck this thing on my cornstalk is???
Investigation the meantime, I snapped it off and tossed it in the fire pit.

Brussels sprouts have got to be the cutest thing I've ever grown...
Once we snapped off the lower leaves the wee lil buds were more visible.
It is like seeing a whole host of tiny cabbages stuck on the side of the stalk!
(In my mind, its baby cabbage patch kids...but that's just my 80's brain)

Our jalapenos are also going like crazy!
I've already given away lots...
And those I kept have been added fresh to recipes
or pickled.

We've also begun the process of thinking about next year's garden.
As the fresh produce slows down, we leave some things on the plants to dry for seeds for next year.
We do that with the peas and beans....that is if I can stay away from the peas long enough.
You can also use either in soups all winter!
(Just make sure you keep enough for planting)
I keep mine in mason jars once dried thoroughly.

As we eat the jalapenos, we keep the seeds and dry them on screens.
I also tried to slice, de-seed and dry the actual peppers.
We'll see if it works out.
The herbs are also coming to an end.
Since we didn't have a hot summer, a lot of our herbs are still producing.
I gather some herbs sporatically, then wash and pat them dry.
I place them between 2 screens on a warm fall day with a nice breeze.
I bring the screens inside at night so the dew doesn't affect the drying process.
(we have been having pretty heavy dews lately...luckily for the rest of the produce, no frosts yet)

How are you saving your harvest?

Are you already thinking about next year's garden?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Adventure Time - The Search for Plums

Ever have an real adventure?
The kind you need a treasure map to go on?

Well, one fell into my lap on the a few weeks ago.

I heard a rumour there was a plum tree
only a few miles down the road from my house.
I was say the least...

Problem was, there was no map.
Only a verbal description (that was rough at best)
of the general location.

As the story goes:  

"Just down from yer in-laws house, 
there used to be a lane way with an old freezer at the end for garbage.
On the west side of the road, there is an apple tree.
Behind it is the plum tree."

I became determined to find this mystery plum tree, 
growing in the wild, completely unsuspecting.
I spent a couple of days driving by the general area slowly....but no apple trees to be found!  
I figured the only way to find this mystery plum tree would be on foot.
So one day, I jumped in the car and drove to the area where I suspected said lane way existed.

It was a bright, sunny day with a cool breeze.
The fall colours still hiding, for the most part.
There was some evidence that the cold nights have been having an effect.
The red on this small branch was fiery!

The end of summer brings with it some pretty interesting shades and textures.
I love the bloated and puffy cattail!

Even makes my nemesis goldenrod look beautiful...

One of the things I love about this region is the 
abundance of beautiful rocks and minerals.

At this point in the adventure, I had walked south down the road away from the lane way.
I walked until I figured far enough to no longer be "just down from".
I had not spotted anything that looked like an apple tree.
(which, this time of year, should be dripping with fruit)

I was beginning to lose faith that I would find the mystery tree.

I stopped to take a breath.
I could see my car parked just in the lane way entrance.


My heart sank.  Is this really where the adventure ends?

That's when I happened to glance beside me for a moment.

I spotted an odd rock formation.
Something don't pile themselves!

I approached.

At this point I was feeling like an anthropologist, 
creeping around an ancient settlement.

I had discovered the foundations of an old homestead.
Two distinct sections of foundation.
I could just imagine the root cellar.
Trees were growing up in the middle of the rock-walled rooms.

Satisfied I had discovered something, I turned to leave.

Only to notice something else.

Not quite a path, it wasn't worn down.

More like the grass was pushed aside by something...
and it lead me over the hill and away from the road.

I was following the pathway towards a view of a small pond.
That's when I heard buzzing...LOTS of buzzing.

I looked up and saw it.


There were not many plums left on this tree.
Most had been plucked by deer or sucked dry by bees.

The longer I stood there...the more bee work I was able to observe.
I took my husband by later on that day only to notice how fast those bees really work!

Above is a picture of the plums as I observed them earlier in the day.
By the time I came back (approx 4 hrs later), this bunch was almost gone!

The plum on the far left has a bee on the you an idea of the size of the bees.

I managed to grab one lower hanging plum.
I gotta be honest...not really a fan of plums that I get in stores.
The skin in tough and bitter...inside the flesh seems mealy and tart.

These plums were different.
They were tender, juicy and sweeter than I could imagine.

Definitely worth the trek!

The lower branches had this dark protruding growth.
I'll have to do some research on it.

Just before leaving this glorious find, I glanced down and saw the bees leave behind the pits.
Some were nice and dry already.
Those bees sure do pick their fruit clean!

I brought home 5 pits to start plum trees of my own.
Until then, I will take great pleasure in hiking to our wild plum tree next August & September.
(I'll be sure to bring a small step ladder or a cherry picker too!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Days of Work Food - Challenge COMPLETE!

5 days have come and gone...that went fast!

So here is a quick recap on the meals I brought with me to work:

DAY 1:

Creamy Pasta with spinach and zucchini from the garden
Plain greek yoghurt with frozen raspberries (from picking) & blueberries (from road stand)
and local honey
chopped veggies sticks - celery, carrots, sweet yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes and cukes from the garden
a grocery store apple and ivanhoe cheese curd - white!


DAY 2:

Spinach salad with sliced turkey slices, cherry tomatoes, cukes, sweet yellow peppers and diced Wilton cheddar cheese
Home made balsamic salad dressing
a grocery store apple
Veggie sticks - celery and carrots
Mexican oatmeal - quick oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, brown sugar


DAY 3:

Turkey-Pumpkin Chili with 2 johnny cake muffins (cornbread) in reused ziplock bag
Spinach salad with cukes, cherry tomatoes, sweet orange peppers, onions and walnuts served with homemade balsamic dressing.
Maple cinnamon oatmeal with chopped almonds and apples.


Day 4:

Leftover Sheppard's Pie
Veggie sticks (carrots, cukes, peppers, celery)
1 whole orange, sectioned
small (reused) ziplock bag of Tostitos chips with 1/4 cup homemade salsa


DAY 5:

(I thought I would treat myself and,
in the process, show you what I eat for fast food)

Sushi lunch combo B

Added BONUS:  It's across the street from my work - so I can walk there!
How's that for balancing the high carbon foot print sushi?!

I could have remixed any of the elements from the week's lunches to make a fifth lunch.
It wouldn't have been that hard, once I had all of the stuff on hand.


I tried to make a bunch of healthy snacks using stuff from the garden and pantry
for 5 whole days.
I tried to make sure I had plenty of protein (but not enough for a construction worker),
decreased my salt intake (by making home made stuff, stead of packaged),
bring stuff I could snack on throughout the day that was both sweet and savoury (to satisfy both cravings),
to eat the rainbow each day,
to reduce my waste by using and washing the same packaging...
and I think I succeeded!

So how did you do with the challenge?

Friday, September 13, 2013

5 Tips for the 5 day Challenge...

Healthy eating takes planning and a little effort...but it doesn't have to be a boring affair.

I wanted to show what kind of effort is required to help you stay on track.

My tricks for healthy eating all week long:

1.  Chopping Veggies

There are tons of ways to store veggies that you prepare ahead of time.
I store my carrots in water in a tupperware container in the fridge.
Change the water every few days to keep things as fresh as possible.

Celery, in particular, doesn't keep for long using the above mentioned method, but can do in a pinch.

Different fruits can be stored different ways.
Some in the fridge, some do better on the counter.

2.  Make Big Batches

I chose 2-3 big meals and make them on Sunday or Monday night.
That way I can put some in smaller containers and have a hearty, healthy lunch.

Some examples of this:  Sheppard's Pie, chili, slow cooker ribs, chicken stew or soup, pasta sauce, black beans and rice

 3.  Make a Litre of Dressing

I will make a big batch of dressing on a Sunday and then I portion it out into a smaller container each day.
You can make a few dressings if you like, but I like to keep it simple.

You don't just have to put it on salads either!
Just think of jazzing up a pasta salad or stir fry with that dressing!
What about marinating your steaks later in the week for a BBQ dinner to die for?

It only takes a few minutes to throw together a dressing.
It's healthy, has WAY less sodium and you control the flavor (I LOVE vinegar).

4.  Pantry Stocked

You don't want to break the bank, but if your pantry is well stocked, you won't have to worry!
Having staples in the pantry can add protein where its lacking, improve a boring entree, spice up a simple dish or add zest to a mundane meal.

Some things we keep in our pantry:

Maple syrup - tapped ourselves!
Salsa - home grown and homemade
Tortilla chips/crackers
Spices:  cayenne, cinnamon, thyme, coriander etc
Local honey
Nuts - almonds, walnuts, seeds
Quick Oats

5.  Baking Ahead

I'm not saying you have to spend your weekend baking up a storm a la Betty Crocker...
(especially not easy to do in the heat of the summer)
But it is easy to make a batch of breakfast protein muffins and keep most in the freezer, taking out one at a time.  The muffins will thaw out mostly on the way to work...whatever doesn't thaw out can be taken care of with the office microwave.

Stuff you can make for the week:  cornbread, breakfast muffins, biscuits,


Use these simple tricks and you'll hold onto more of your hard earned cash.
(not to mention your body will thank you!)


Don't forget to post what you bring each day on Facebook
Starting on Monday Sept 16th!

We wanna see who's got the stuff!!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

FOOD CHALLENGE! Can you do it?

A few months ago, I read an article on line boasting "A Whole Day of Eating Clean!".

I was intrigued, at first.
I'm always up for new ideas.
You never know when you'll find one, so with an open mind, I read on...
Only to be disappointed.

I read about a young lady who works for one of the online news outlets.
She vowed to document her meals for one day to show how easy it is to eat healthy, clean food.

There were several things that bothered me about this article.

1 - while she was eating "clean", she was not necessarily eating healthy.
2 - some of her choices seemed baby carrots in lieu of actual carrots.
3 - her options seemed bland and boring.
4 - she only documented one day.

Why only one day?
I mean, anyone can walk the walk for one business day.
Here's my opportunity to talk the talk for 5 days!
And while I'm not documenting a whole day of food, it will be a picture of the food I take to work.

Here's a bit of background on my work:
I take 911 calls for ambulances and dispatch ambulances for a very large, populated area
- I work 12 hr shifts (day and/or night)
- I sit for all of those 12 hrs
- Its a very high stress job - emotional eating is a not so much a past time rather than a job requirement.

I am committed to taking a picture of the healthy food I bring for my 12 hrs for 5 days.
I will try to:

  • make sure I had plenty of protein (but not enough for a construction worker)
  • limit carbohydrate intake (but not remove it completely)
  • decreased my salt intake (by making home made stuff, instead of packaged)
  • bring stuff I could snack on throughout the day that was both sweet and savory (to satisfy both cravings)
  • to eat the rainbow each day
  • to reduce my waste by using and washing the same packaging


Part of this commitment is to show how it actually is easy.

No tying yourself to the kitchen for days...

I'll even add in a bonus!  I'll show you the work I do to prepare the 5 days in advance.
I will make a blog post with a summary of the 5 days, as well.

Anyone want to join me?

Post your work food on my Facebook page or group starting next Monday Sept 16th...I'll do the same.

***  I feel like there could be a PRIZE for your stellar efforts ***